Attack In Black – [Live]

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

As any fan of the band can tell you, Attack In Black can be a complicated group to watch live because, as great a fan as an attendee may be, it's entirely possible for them to play an entire set without anyone knowing a single song. That isn't to say that nothing the band plays is a hit though, only that the songs at the show are totally unrecognizable as the songs in the live set. Sounds complicated doesn't it? It isn't – Attack In Black is simply blessed with the talent to remodel even their biggest songs into forms that suit their newest artistic angle or ideas and they've been doing it for years; since forming in 2003, founding members Dan and Ian Romano (singer/guitarist and drummer respectively) and guitarist Spencer Burton have seemed to spontaneously mutate from regional hardcore all-stars to experimental and innovative alt-rock champions to fine, roots-ish songwriters and more with each successive release. They've made each transition completely and confidently too; if one were to take the band's Skate Ahead debut and set it playing next to Years (By One Thousand Fingertips), there aren't many listeners who would guess that it's the work of the same band. Is that working process self-indulgent? Of course it is – but there isn't a single member of Attack In Black that won't own up to it and, as long as a listener keeps an open mind, it doesn't matter that (s)he can go through and enjoy an entire Attack In Black performance without recognizing a single song; even if the hits don't make themselves immediately known, it's still an incredibly captivating show.

With all of that in mind, saying that the band's chameleonic nature makes it difficult to review their shows seems a bit redundant. One can talk about the show, of course, but the guiding rules of convention simply do not apply; and the living proof of that was evident on stage when Attack In Black performed its' set for North By Northeast Music Conference at The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto on June 19, 2010.

The crowd's warm and enthusiastic reception of Attack In Black clearly flattered the band as they cut into the set and, to their credit, the crowd's enthusiasm didn't waver as it quickly became apparent that the band had mutated yet again into still another permutation of itself. Now with a more forceful and polished country rock flavor (possibly contracted in part from the release of singer Daniel Romano's solo album last month), the band tread quickly into vintage "Neil Young and Crazy Horse country" as Burton's occasionally dramatic, staggering and caustic staccato guitar lines would be pushed past Daniel Romano's increasingly melodic vocals by the tight rhythm section provided by Ian Romano and bassist Ian Kehoe. By turns, the songs would grate or fly depending upon how far out of themselves they wanted to jam, but it was always that rhythm section that would bring the proceedings back to center and drive them home.

Of course, noticeably, no song titles have been been mentioned in this review, and there's a good reason for that, while I've been a fan since the band convened seven years ago, I can safely say that I didn't recognize even one of them. That quickly turned into part of the attraction to the set though; on the stage at The Horseshoe on June 19, Attach In Black illustrated to an audience raised on the brand recognition that comes with being a fan of pop music that a good show doesn't need to be measurable or cleanly defined to be good. That night, Attack In Black really let the songs speak for themselves and stand on their own merits without the benefit of being perfectly familiar. It was a mind expanding/bending experience.



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